Do it Messy: On Creativity, Art, and Fun

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Business, Photography Mentoring

This is part journal entry, part advice, part behind-the-scenes

It’s important to me as an artist and as a professional that I stay honest about what’s going on in my life. I’m not a polished professional all of the time, and I don’t want to be. Sometimes my web designer and I talk about it, and she always seems a little surprised by how quickly I move.

And I do move quickly, I know that. I’m someone who likes to act on ideas now. If I could do things before I even thought of them, I’d probably figure out a way to. And not only am I okay with that, I’m proud of it.

Jessica Strobel posed for a self portrait to help with creative burnout

Having a business based in creativity isn’t easy.

You read the headline and you were like “duh,” right? It does feel a little obvious, but it’s not that it isn’t easy because like, owning and running a business is hard. I mean something different. I mean that running a business based in creativity sometimes means being creative when I don’t feel creative.

And that?

That’s a massive struggle. The struggle of ALL struggles, in fact.

Forced creativity leads to creative burnout.

Not only is it a struggle, it’s also one of the really big reasons that creatives get burnt out on the things they love. If you’re also a photographer or a creative in your business, I’m sure you can relate. When you have to perform creative tasks on demand all the time… you can’t rely on the lightning-bolt of creativity to make things move.

It’s not like sitting in front of a canvas and painting. Sometimes, it’s like sitting in front of a canvas and trying to paint while the room is filling with water around your feet. Because relying solely on your creativity for your income… it’s a mood. We’ll just say that.

And trying to force creativity under stress or constraint tends to lead to us applying MORE stress and constraint… to ourselves.

newborn baby boy on white rug wearing white wrap holding moms hand

When all of your creativity is high-stakes, does it still feel creative?

If you’re in the place where you’re starting to apply more external stress, that’s when we get into perfectionism. Because those creative tasks aren’t about fun anymore, they’re about fulfilling a purpose. Specifically a super boring purpose, like paying the bills.

And admittedly, every once and a while, I find myself in that space. It’s not common for me, but it happens. I just… start thinking about my work as work, instead of thinking about it as something I love to do, and am privileged to get to spend my life on. And when I get into that place, I’m more and more likely to lean into perfectionism, because if I do it right the first time, I don’t have to spend more time on it.
If you already have a professionally developed brand palette (or one you made yourself, no shame!) that’s even better! You can just replace the colors in the templates with your own, and go from there.

the YEAH Canva templates for photographers

What do I do when I get into perfectionism?

If you’ve been in that place too (or you’re there right now, no shame), I get it. But I also have a solution!

And initially, it might sound ridiculous. But I promise it’ll help.

Give yourself permission to do something MESSY. Whether that means taking self portraits for giggles, or doing something LITERALLY messy like painting all over your walls… allow yourself to be fully creative. Think of the artistic thing you most deeply want to do. The thing you’d want to do without a client brief – just for you.

And do. That. Thing.

Do it MESSY, and do it FUN. Break the rules. Give yourself the freedom you’ve been missing, with no one to answer to but your own soul.

Once you do, you might feel as good as I felt after taking these portraits. You’ve got to let your creativity be used for things that AREN’T your work sometimes.

Your brain will thank you.

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